This morning in the Herald was an article which was, the way I read it, basically Bill English saying: Hey, these parents are irresponsible jerks, so we’re quite prepared to take care of their kids, since they won’t. Oh no, hang on, that is what he is actually saying here.
“There’s no doubt that there are kids in homes where there is not a strong sense of responsibility. It’s the obligation of the rest of us to do something about that.”
Perhaps someone needs to give Mr English some brain physiology lessons and explain to him what really happens when children are not eating properly. Poor nutrition means that there are certain things a child’s brain needs – to be able to absorb information, ask questions, focus for any decent period of time for example ie learning – that they aren’t getting. Dr Alan Greene explains it.
You see where we’re going with this, don’t you? It’s pretty simple. Brains need feeding, and they need feeding with particular sorts of food for our bodies to function optimally. And if our brains and bodies are functioning optimally, we grow up to become adults who are still walking wounded (external factors, they are a bitch), but at least we have good decision making processes, because we are able to take in information, process it effectively, and come to conclusions. If your brain is starved as a child, that really isn’t going to happen. And if that doesn’t happen, what you tend to get is, yes you guessed it, people having children and repeating the cycle. That’s what we in the biz call cyclical poverty.
And what of children who were not left hungry, and grow up and find themselves in a situation which means that their kids aren’t being fed adequately? Well, that assumes, you see, that everyone understands the physiology of the brain. Because, quite frankly, most people don’t. They’re just trying to do the best by their kids. I would say, as a nonparent myself, that most people find themselves having babies and going “Holy hell! What is this squirming little thing? And how do I stop it crying?” But you see, the difference between people who are raised with love, and care, and proper nutrition, and have done okay at school, and most importantly of all, are raised in an environment where they see these things done – care taken, school/learning is important, love makes the world go round, and even if one of these things is missing, the kid has a chance – so they at least have examples of what parenting looks like, and people who haven’t had any or most of that? Is vast. An absolute ocean of knowledge separates those who have had at least some of those things, and those that haven’t. So there are people who have been raised with love in their hearts and homes, and good food in their belly, and they still find themselves behind the eight ball, unable, for whatever reason, to feed their kids adequately. It could be that they have mental health issues. It just might be that they were happily ensconced in a loving relationship, and then one parent left, and everything came tumbling down, and now they find themselves on a single parent benefit, with four kids to feed, and the most expedient thing is to give the kids what they want, and if that’s a pie and a cookie, hey at least it’s food. Because if Bill English and his cohorts don’t understand why a child needs to have a good breakfast in the morning, then how the hell are the rest of us oiks supposed to know any of that shit, either? And therein lies the problem. When you come from a happyish home, and you’ve been fed, and society is set up in a way which favours you from birth by dint of your skin colour, or your gender, or your family’s educative philosophy, or what job your Dad/Mum had to make all of that possible, and you’ve never met anyone who’s hungry or poor, and you’ve read newspapers all your life and listened to people, who tell you that being poor is a choice, then it is very easy not to know certain things. And to make judgements on other peoples’ lives, to be and remain ignorant of other peoples’ pain.
I would say to Bill English, and all the other politicians who show ignorance about what kids need to be successful, happy, productive members of society: Brains need food. It starts with that. If your brain has at least the building blocks in place, the other stuff can get sorted out eventually. Your place in society is one of privilege and power. Don’t use it to make kids suffer, because in the end, if they do, we all suffer. Crime rates, domestic abuse, any societal ill you can think of – a goodly proportion of the adults at the sharp end of those statistics you are fond of quoting were kids who didn’t get a decent feed in them at some point early in their lives.